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Made the Harbor
Mountain Man Made the Harbor
Released 14 June 2010
Producer Mountain Man
Label Bella Union
Length 31:58
Genre Folk
Website mountainman.bandcamp.com

The name might conjure up images of a wily old trapper of the wild frontier, but don’t let that fool you, Mountain Man are a female vocal trio who’s sound belies both their name and age. Having met in Bennington College in Vermont they were brought together through a mutual love of music and recent heartbreaks. Their debut album, Made the Harbor, provides a refreshing contrast to convention, eschewing the vocal affectations of modern pop divas in favour of pure voices and sweet harmonies.

With minimal production and instrumentation restricted to sporadic acoustic guitar parts, the voices take centre stage. All three women (Molly Erin Sarle, Alexandra Sauser-Monnig and Amelia Randall Meath) are strong vocalists, the harmonies are well constructed and the voices mix well. 'Animal Tracks' and 'White Heron' show Mountain Man at their best- a sweet melody augmented with a higher and lower harmony, a mixture of seductive and melancholic tones.

Unfortunately the song writing doesn’t always match the heights of their vocal talents; by the halfway point of the album it seems that they have exhausted their repertoire and you’re left with a severe case of déjà vu as the songs begin to blur into one. The dynamics and tempo stay at a comfortable middle of the road level throughout and it all just feels a bit too safe. The singing standard remains high throughout but it feels like the second half of the album was written to fill in time.

The early potential shown in Made the Harbor is a sure sign that there is more to come from Mountain Man but this potential needs to be channelled more effectively. This album has a certain charm to it, one that cannot be faked or manufactured. Hopefully it will be a sturdy building block for them, one from which they can grow and diversify and fulfil the promise shown here.

- Brian Kinsella